Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Classic reworked--Eggplant Lasagna

Eggplant parmesan has been on my mind lately. And what transpires in the mind usually makes its way onto our table. But a soon as the eggplant emerges from its bin I shudder. It has taken on an odd dark brown tone. Forgotten for Too many days in the fridge will do that to you. Out it goes and of course in comes a brand new one. Did you think I am going to let a craving go by the wayside? It's not a case of abracadabra, but a quick drive to the grocery store that enables me to continue my quest.

As I thinly slice eggplant, I ponder over my choices for sauce. Should I use the traditional marinara or venture down another path with bolognese?  We've eaten the tried and tested marinara version many times. So I go down the path never taken! Turkey bolognese it is. 

Frying eggplant takes time and oil. In the past I baked the slices with not much luck. This time it isn't so bad. A nonstick pan and thin slices make crisp slices. Turkey browns slowly and gets a bath in crushed tomatoes and Italian spices. I layer eggplant and bolognese lasagna style. As it bakes and bubbles, a heavenly aroma fills the kitchen. Soon hungry folk will line up for hearty portions. 

Serves 4

1 large Eggplant
1 Egg
Italian Breadcrumbs as needed
Canola oil as needed
1 cup Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Mozzerella cheese
1/2 cup Fontina cheese 
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Turkey Bolognese
1 pound ground Turkey
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 28oz can crushed Tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
2 teaspoons Tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground Black pepper
1/2 cup fresh Basil

For the bolognese, heat olive oil in a saucepan.

Add turkey to hot oil and sauté well, breaking up the meat.

Let meat brown.

Once the meat had browned add crushed tomatoes, spices, seasonings and basil. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Slice eggplants into thin slices, 1/5 inch in thickness. Slice only what will fit in the frying pan. You can start the next batch while the first one is frying.

Break the egg into a bowl and whisk.

Spoon 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs onto a cutting board.

Dip eggplant in egg, let the extra egg drip off, then lay it on the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs over the slice. Pat the crumbs down. Turn the slice over and pat again. Keep aside. Do 5-6 slices before you fry.

Heat 3 tablespoons of canola oil in a nonstick saucepan. Add slices and fry till golden brown. Turn thhem over and fry on the other side for a few minutes. Remove from pan and keep aside. Fry all the eggplant slices this way. 

Mix Mozzerella, fontina and Parmesan cheeses together.

Start assembling the lasagna in a 8x8 oven proof dish. Line the bottom of the dish with a few spoons of bolognese. 

Place 4 eggplant slices over sauce. 

Spread a heaping teaspoon of ricotta cheese over each slice.

Top eggplants with more sauce so the slices are covered. 

Scatter mixed cheeses over slices.

Finish building the lasagna in the above fashion ending with mixed cheeses.

Heat oven to 350F.

Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes. 

Serve hot with garlic bread and a green salad.


I do not specify breadcrumb and oil amounts. If I were to be exact, it would be about 2 to 3 cups breadcrumbs and 1/2 to 3/4 cup canola oil. 

Any cheese can be used in place of Mozzerella, fontina and Parmesan. These are guidelines.

Turkey is a good choice for bolognese but you can easily substitute ground beef or pork.

wafting aromas entice everyone into the kitchen. There's something to be said about Italian food warming in the oven that worms it's way into your heart. The flavors wake up all your taste buds and beg for that fork and plate. This is an unusual combination. I wonder as I portion out hefty squares. A fork full of breaded eggplant, piquant sauce and stringy cheese is a revelation. A new take on an old classic. Nods and approval all around. But then I've always said that my kids must be Italian born!
And when we are done, there's but one square left.  And that has my name on it for lunch the next day! Chef's prerogative!!